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Projects on northern Vancouver Island support forest workers

On the northern part of Vancouver Island there were 20 FEP projects approved in 2021-22
Ronan O’Doherty/Campbell River Mirror file photo

Short-term employment opportunities on northern Vancouver Island have kept forest workers affected by changes in the sector employed under the government’s Forest Employment Program (FEP).

“As someone who has worked in the forestry sector, I know personally how important forestry is for rural communities across the province, including the North Island,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests. “The Forest Employment Program is creating family-supporting jobs for forestry contractors and their workers, while reducing wildfire risk and improving infrastructure for communities.”

The FEP provides short-term employment opportunities for forestry contractors and workers affected by mill curtailments, old-growth deferrals and other forestry-sector impacts. Projects, often involving Indigenous partnerships, include funding upgrades to forest service roads, range infrastructure, recreational trails, community access and wildfire mitigation. The projects are part of $185 million over three years from Budget 2022 to provide co-ordinated and comprehensive supports for forestry workers, industry, communities and First Nations that may be affected by new restrictions on old-growth logging.

“Workers and contractors will be able to make the North Island an even better places to live and visit, while supporting their families and communities,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation. “We know that changes and downturns can be hard on communities that rely on the forestry sector, and our government is there for them. Improved access to recreation sites, new and better trails, safer roads and wildfire-mitigation projects all help keep people working while building more resilient regions and a stronger B.C.”

On the northern part of Vancouver Island there were 20 FEP projects approved in 2021-22, totalling more than $1.3 million in the communities of Nimpkish, Port Alice, Port McNeill, Port Hardy, Woss and Zeballos.

Projects included:

* Assessment, deconstruction and rehabilitation of the McNair Lake Dam in Campbell River;

* 19 forest service road projects (FSR) including:

* Salt Marsh FSR accessibility requirements, primarily wheelchair access requested from schools and First Nations communities near Port McNeill;

* Eve River Bridge guardrail installation in the Campbell River District;

* Installation of two new bridge structures on the North Island;

* Fair Harbour FSR ditch line blasting, rock-hammering small faces, fixing leans and installing culverts, and no-post barriers near Zeballos and three First Nations communities.

Since its creation in 2019, FEP has distributed $30 million, which have supported 317 projects and created more than 840 short-term jobs.

“Forestry in B.C. provides good, family-supporting jobs that are a foundation of communities across our province, and the forestry sector certainly is a key part of the fabric of North Island communities,” says Roly Russell, Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development. “We will continue to work hard to ensure people affected by economic changes on northern Vancouver Island can access positive, impactful and lasting supports that will provide new opportunities for people in B.C.’s rural communities.”

Michele Babchuk, MLA for North Island, stated that “Forestry is so vital to our economy on the North Island and the livelihood of workers and their families. With over 1.3 million in funding from the Forest Employment Program, these latest projects are creating important opportunities for forestry contractors while also benefiting communities across the region through better infrastructure, safer roads and access to recreation sites.”

Quick Facts

The Forest Employment Program was created in 2019 to provide short-term employment.

Projects have been awarded to forestry contractors and employees suffering financial hardships associated with sector downturns or the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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- Gazette staff

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